‘Bonanza’ and ‘Trapper John, M.D.’ Star Pernell Roberts Went on a Manhunt in ‘The Love Boat’ Appearance

by Suzanne Halliburton

Pernell Roberts, the one-time star of both Bonanza and Trapper John, M.D., took a trip on The Love Boat. Because any TV star worth their weight in celebrity headlines wanted a trip on the Pacific Princess.

Seriously, actors and entertainers flocked to the Love Boat. Roberts was in a two-parter. It was November 1980 and it was sweeps month, so ABC packed the episodes with well-known stars.

Roberts’ episodes were “The Mallory Quest/Julie, the Vamp/The Offer” Part 1 and Part 2.

Because it’s the Love Boat, there were multiple story lines. Pernell Robert’s nephew was missing. Robert’s wife flirted with Doc. After all, Doc put the love in the Love Boat.

There were other TV stars who had Love Boat roles in the two-parter. Dick Van Patten and Lani O’Grady were on deck from Eight is Enough. Jimmie Walker, who was a dy-nooooo-mite J.J. on Good Times, played one of three passengers who received a free trip.

Another was singer/actress Connie Stevens. She was once married to Eddie Fisher, who also counted Elizabeth Taylor and Debbie Reynolds among his wives. Maren Jensen, a star on Battlestar Galatica, also had a role in the episode.

Besides Bonanza Star, Brady Bunch Actress Was Top Guest Star on The Love Boat

Here’s a fun fact about The Love Boat, which ran from 1977-86. Florence Henderson, who was everyone’s favorite mom on the Brady Bunch, was on The Love Boat nine times. That was tops among guest stars. Robert Reed, who played her husband, Mike Brady, also was on The Love Boat with her. But they didn’t have the same storylines. Another top guest star was Rue McClanahan from the Golden Girls.

That was what was so fun about The Love Boat. You never knew who would show up as a passenger on the Pacific Princess. There was a permanent cast. Captain Stubing, Julie McCoy, Doc, Gopher and Isaac always were on the show. There were three actors who played on all 250 episodes — Gavin MacLeod (the captain), Bernie Kopell (Doc) and Ted Lange (Isaac). Fred Grandy, the future Congressman from Iowa, played Gopher for 246 episodes.

But the guest stars changed every Saturday. That’s why you saw actors like Pernell Roberts.

The first meaty role played by Pernell Roberts was on Bonanza. He played Adam Cartwright, who was the college-educated first born of Ben Cartwright. Roberts lasted on Bonanza from 1959-65.

Then, Roberts’ next significant role was in Trapper John, M.D. He played the older version of Trapper John McIntyre, a part originated on TV by Wayne Rogers on M*A*S*H. The show started in 1979, so Roberts was in his second year as Trapper John when he guest-starred on The Love Boat. Roberts played Trapper John more than twice as long as Wayne Roberts, seven years to three.

Coincidentally, the season Roberts was on The Love Boat, the series enjoyed its highest ever ratings, ending the TV year at No. 5.

Maybe it was the multiple drawing power of Adam Cartwright and Trapper John.